Friday, January 6, 2012

Ringing in 2012

This month I’m celebrating not only the closure of 2011, but also two years on Yap. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m amazed at how even though the individual days pass so slowly, the months and years just slip by.

Two years. Sometimes I don’t even believe it myself.

Anyway… on New Year’s Eve, a bunch of the ex-pats decided to celebrate by having dinner together on the ‘restaurant boat’ Mnuw, moored next to the Manta Ray Bay Hotel. As expected, a variety of food and beverages were consumed, and everyone seemed to have a good time. At midnight, someone declared that we should all jump off the upper deck of the ship into the water. I was ready and willing to make this leap into the unknown, but at the last minute, the management informed us that the tide was too low! Oh well, maybe next time. Perhaps this is the year that I finally will accomplish this feat of bravery and/or foolishness.

About a week later, Governor Anefal and the Executive branch held a post-Christmas and New Year party. Members of State agencies were invited, along with the other branches of government, and all the resident ex-pats. The venue was at Sunset Park in the municipality of Kaday, a picturesque spot on the western coast of the island.

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It had been raining off and on for the past few days, so it was a relief that the weather cooperated. A steady breeze from the ocean-side helped keep everyone cool and the mosquitoes away. Out on the horizon, tubular waves arced rhythmically before crashing onto the reef.

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The party officially began at 10am. Knowing that ‘island-time’ means a certain flexibility in when things actually start, I arrived about forty five minutes after. I figured that I’d still be fashionably late. As it turned out, I was one of the first guests to show up! Eventually others trickled in, and we all helped set up folding chairs borrowed from the Dept. of Education.

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Everyone took notice when a truck pulled up almost to the edge of the stone embankment above the water.

DSC00111Loaded in the back were two giant coolers, freshly filled with ice and Budweiser. Even though it was well before noon, cans of beer were immediately passed out.

More people started arriving, and chose seats on folding chairs, or ancient-looking stone picnic tables, or wherever shade was available.

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People chatted while fixing chews of betel nut, interrupted only by frequent offers of new cans of beer. Coconuts were also distributed, after harvesting them from a nearby tree.

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The Governor arrived, and sat with other senior members of government. They gathered around big bottles of tuba, and drank from cups made from coconut shells.

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DSC00121At one point, I took a walk around the park. I watched this little residence, a lookout for illegal fishing in that marine protected area, bob gently on the waves. Aside from the commute, I thought that would be a pretty fun job.

Kids played on a weathered swing set, under the watchful eye of a group of mothers who were sitting nearby. I noticed that more of these stone tables were scattered around, and I wondered about their history.

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There was also a koyeng-like structure, but built without the usual benches. I’m guessing it’s for storing canoes or kayaks, perhaps to ferry the lookout to his marine observation post?

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DSC00136Before lunch, the Governor gave a short speech, wishing everyone a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. He welcomed all the assembled guests, and even gave special thanks to the ex-pats, who are far from home during the holidays. I can certainly appreciate that sentiment!

Afterward, everyone helped themselves to the trays upon trays of food arranged on a long line of tables. On one side were salads and local food like taro, banana, and tapioca; on the other were several varieties of meat. There were platters heaped high with piles of beef ribs, chicken, fish, and hot dogs. Everything was barbecued to perfection. The head of the table was reserved for the guest of honor: A 180 pound, leaf wrapped, pit-roasted pig.

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I learned that some of the organizers of the party stayed up the entire night cooking it. I fully respect their dedication to the traditional culinary arts, as the pork was really excellent.

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The meat was tender with a slightly smoky flavor, and surprisingly lean. I ate heartily and even saved a few bones for Peanut, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

The festivities continued throughout the afternoon. Events such as an egg toss, and something called a ‘beer belly contest’, were planned. Feeling a little tired and sleepy after my heavy meal, I said my goodbyes and made my way back home. Just in time too, as the first event was a tuba-drinking contest among Cabinet members! After so much good food and even more good cheer, losing that competition wouldn’t hurt my pride, but maybe my dignity. 

I’m sure the party kept going well on into the night, and possibly the next morning.

Looking back, all in all, 2011 was pretty good. It had its changes and challenges, but also adventure, growth, and experiences that have become treasured memories. I can’t even imagine what 2012 will bring. Here’s hoping for a happy, healthy, and prosperous year. 

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Also, that it’s not the year the world ends, as the Mayans predicted.

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